February 3, 2006-A month has gone by, and yet it seems like yesterday I was in Mecca performing my Hajj. I cannot seem to rightly describe the beauty of Hajj. The entire atmosphere of Hajj is one that is simply beyond description. Every sense I have was elevated to a place that I didn't know existed.

When I close my eyes I can still see the sky as I sat back and watched it from dusk to dawn running through every shade of red, orange, yellow, blue and black. Its beauty was only increased by the Kaa'ba that it surrounded.

When I take a breath I can still smell that wonderful scent of desert sand and the wind that would blow it; that wondrous wind that carried the prayers and supplications of millions of pilgrims who left behind their homes, their families, and their belongings in search of something greater.

When I put my head to the ground I can still feel the cool marble floor of the Haram (the Grand Mosque in Mecca) pressing against my forehead in an offering of comfort to a position that is already most comfortable, and thus making it even harder for me to get up from my prostration.

When I take a sip of water, I can still taste that refreshing zam zam, a liquid so pure that it was used by the angels who came down to clean the Prophet Muhammad's (SAW) heart. That water, zam zam, was all around me for 17 days, and now there is none to find.

When I sit in silence I can still hear the pilgrims calling out to Allah, saying Labayk Allahuma Labayk (the Talbiya), testifying to their presence in that blessed city of Mecca. I can still hear the call to prayer echoing through the streets, inviting everyone to come and stand side by side. An endless number of individuals--young and old, male and female, black, white, brown, and yellow--stood together as equals during those times of prayer.

Each sense I have was affected, changing the way I perceived things that exist all around me. Everything was so beautiful, so exquisite. But what I learned about a person's character was even more remarkable.

I am reminded of the story of Musa ibn Esa, who served as a governor during the classical period of Islam. One night he was sitting with his wife, and as it is said in Islamic texts that he tells her that she is more beautiful then the moon--and if she isn't that beautiful, then he is divorced from her.

"I remember the tears."
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The wife becomes cognizant of what her husband has said, and she brings him back to reality by explaining the situation: She tells him, `Do you realize what you have said--that if I am not more beautiful then the moon above us, I am divorced from you?" The governor now seeks the advice of a scholar, trying to figure out how he can stay married to his wife. But one scholar after the other tells him that there is nothing that can be done, and he is in fact now divorced from her.

But then Islamic texts report that Musa ibn Esa speaks to Imam Shafi'I, a very knowledgeable scholar, who says (much to the disapproval of his colleagues) that the governor is not divorced. His evidence: That Allah says in the Qur'an, La Qad Khalaqnal Insaana fi ahsani taqweem; that "We have indeed created man in the best of forms," meaning that man surpasses any of God's beautiful creations, be it the moon, the stars, or even the sun.

At Hajj I truly understood what this meant.

I witnessed so many acts of kindness, grace, and beauty. I remember one individual who offered to bring water to the people sitting around him in the masjid. Dozens of people threw bottles at him from every angle, but rather then getting upset, he quickly gathered up each one, filled then up with zam zam, and made sure that each bottle was returned to its rightful owner.

I remember sitting next to an African man on the steps of the Haram, he speaking his own language and I speaking mine. But still we were able to communicate and understand each other still just the same.

I remember seeing people circling the Kaa'ba in the heat of midday. A woman who was pushing her mother in a wheelchair suddenly fell to the ground out of exhaustion and almost immediately a hand reached out to her to help her up. Another pilgrim handed her some water to quench her thirst.

I remember the tears. Tear after tear falling to the ground, each one inshallah (God willing) sincere enough to be accepted by Allah. A tear seeking forgiveness for one's own self, for one's friends, for one's family, for those who passed away, and for those who still remain. A tear seeking forgiveness for those whom one had wronged as well as for those whom one had been wronged by. A tear of joy for each and every blessing given in life--from the ability to walk and talk to being able to see and hear.

Each tear was unique to itself and to the beautiful person fortunate enough to cry it.

If my thoughts are incoherent, it's because I don't know how to properly explain my Hajj experience. There is nothing that I can imagine is even close to an experience like the Hajj. I pray that inshallah Allah grants all of us the means to take a similar journey in our lives, that He allows all of us to always be grateful for what we have and treasure all that we have been given.

I pray that Allah grants us all the highest level of paradise in the company of those whom we love and care for, that He increases our trust in Him, and that He increases our knowledge of what is beneficial and protects us from knowledge that does not benefit. I pray that He grants us the wisdom to implement that knowledge into our daily lives, that He grants us our hearts' desire, and He lets there be good in every thing we do. I pray that He allows us the tawfiq (ability) to smile everyday, and that He guides and blesses us.

Ameen ya Rab al'alameen.

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